Sometimes it feels as though Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin are reading from the same script.
Hours after a widely criticized news conference with the U.S. president, Russia’s leader gave an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, during which he was asked why so many people who opposed his government “end up dead or close to it.”
Specifically, Wallace cited the nerve agent poisoning of Russian defector Sergei Skripal in England in March, the 2015 killing of Boris Nemtsov, who was shot near the Kremlin and the 2006 murder of journalist Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow.
“Well, first of all, all of us have plenty of political rivals,” Putin responded. “I’m pretty sure President Trump has plenty of political rivals.”
Wallace noted that “they don’t end up dead.”
Vladimir Putin, asked why his political opponents often end up dead, cites the assassinations of Kennedy and MLK, saying it happens in America too pic.twitter.com/T2xLfifTJY
— Axios (@axios) July 16, 2018
“Well, not always— well, haven’t presidents been killed in the United States?” Putin responded. “Have you forgotten about — well, has Kennedy been killed in Russia or in the United States? Or Mr. King? What — and what happens to the clashes between police and, well, civil society, and some — several ethnic groups? Well, that’s something that happens on the U.S. soil. All of us have our own set of domestic problems.”
Putin added that British authorities have refused to give his government the evidence they have amassed in the Skripal case to reach their conclusion that the Kremlin targeted him with a rare nerve agent.
What’s striking about Putin’s response, however, is how similar it is to comments made by Trump in an 2017 interview with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
After Trump complimented the Russian leader, O’Reilly called out Putin.
“But he’s a killer,” O’Reilly told Trump.
“There are a lot of killers,” Trump responded. “You think our country’s so innocent?”
In his comments in the aftermath of a white supremacist riot in Charlottesville, Va., and the assertion today that he holds “both countries responsible” for the poor state of Russian-U.S. relations, Trump has deflected criticism with moral relativism, the tactic popularly known as “whataboutism.” Evidently, his Russian counterpart shares that tendency.
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